Are Omega 3 Fatty Acids (n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids) Important?

Fats in our diet are vital and in the body the fats that we eat are broken down into fatty acids which are then used to make other chemicals that are essential for life. There are two main types of polyunsaturated fatty acids in food- omega-3 and omega-6.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be helpful in people with rheumatoid arthritis and other types of inflammatory arthritis as they may have an anti-inflammatory effect. It is not known if omega-3 fatty acids are helpful in osteoarthritis.
Omega-3 fatty acids also have two types- long chain and short chain fatty acids.
Long chain omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish such as sardines, pilchards and salmon, and short chain omega-3 fatty acids are found in walnuts, rapeseed and flax oils.
Omega-6 fatty acids are found in certain cooking oils such as corn oil and sunflower oil. Too much omega-6 fatty acids can increase the level of inflammation in arthritis.

In the UK, guidelines suggest eating at least 2 portions of oily fish per week including salmon and pilchards, but the amount of omega-3 fatty acids needed to help with inflammatory arthritis is much more than the amount in 2 portions of fish. 2.7g per day of omega-3 fish oils is recommended for inflammatory arthritis and you may need to take a supplement to get the right amount. Make sure that you use fish body oils and not fish liver oils which have not been shown to help osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, and contain high amounts of Vitamin A which can be dangerous if too much is taken.